Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department


Committee Chair/Advisor

Vyavahare, Narendra R

Committee Member

Webb, Ken

Committee Member

Vertegel, Alexey

Committee Member

Gray, Bruce


Elastin, a structural protein in the extra-cellular matrix, plays a critical role in the normal functioning of blood vessels. Apart from performing its primary function of providing resilience to arteries, it also plays major role in regulating cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions, response to injury, and morphogenesis. Medial arterial calcification (MAC) and abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) are two diseases where the structural and functional integrity of elastin is severely compromised. Although the clinical presentation of MAC and AAA differ, they have one common underlying causative mechanism--pathological degradation of elastin. Hence prevention of elastin degradation in the early stages of MAC and AAA can mitigate, partially if not wholly, the fatal consequences of both the diseases.

The work presented here is motivated by the overwhelming statistics of people afflicted by elastin associated cardiovascular diseases and the unavailability of cure for the same. Overall goal of our research is to understand role of elastin degradation in cardiovascular diseases and to develop a targeted vascular drug delivery system that is minimally invasive, biodegradable, and non-toxic, that prevents elastin from degradation. Our hope is that such treatment will also help regenerate elastin, thereby providing a multi-fold treatment option for elasto-degenerative vascular diseases. For this purpose, we have first confirmed the combined role of degraded elastin and hyperglycemia in the pathogenesis of MAC. We have shown that in the absence of degraded elastin and TGF-β1 (abundantly present in diabetic arteries) vascular smooth muscle cells maintain their homeostatic state, regardless of environmental glucose concentrations. However simultaneous exposure to glucose, elastin peptides and TGF-β1 causes the pathological transgenesis of vascular cells to osteoblast-like cells.

We show that plant derived polyphenols bind to vascular elastin with great affinity resulting in improved resistance to elastolytic digestion. We further show that the same polyphenols interact with monomeric tropoelastin released by the vascular cells and dramatically increasing their self-assembly in-vitro. In addition, we demonstrate the elastogenic ability of these polyphenols in aiding the crosslinking of tropoelastin released by aneurysmal cells converting it into mature elastin.

Finally, we developed a nanoparticle system functionalized with elastin antibody on the surface that, upon systemic delivery, can recognize and bind to sites of damaged elastin in the aorta. We are able to show that this nanoparticle system works in representative animal models for MAC and AAA. These nanoparticles demonstrated spatial and functional specificity for degraded elastin.

In conclusion, our work is focused on understanding the role of elastin degradation in vascular calcification and aortic aneurysms. We tested approaches to halt elastin degradation and to regenerate elastin in arteries so that homeostasis can be achieved.



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